A year ago I was restless. I woke up each morning, I took a shower, I fed the cat, I made breakfast, I drove to work, and I sat in a chair all day. Some days I worked out, some days I ate out, and some nights were spent cooking. Life felt mundane, the daily grind of my routine leaving me unfulfilled with a yearning for more. I was bored with my life as I knew it, and I wanted to see the world.
Looking for excitement, for variance and unpredictability, I set off into the unknown with nothing but a bag to my name. I started in America, where I reignited a flame in my heart. I saw the lights of New York, explored American history in DC, and experienced the lifestyle of California. I back packed through Southeast Asia, and tried to give back to the world with some volunteering in Cambodia. I ate my way through Japan, looking for a place to sleep, before diving head first into India and its 45 degree temperatures. I tried to unlock my mind in Burma by learning to meditate in a monastery, before settling back into air conditioned malls in Singapore.
These last 8 months have seen me visit 11 countries, enrich my knowledge of cultures and of the world, introduced me to a myriad of new foods, and made me question what it is I ultimately want out of life. It’s been rewarding in countless ways; no work, no responsibility, no routine, no plan. This is the most free I have ever been in my life, and perhaps ever will be.
I think that India is the place that I became a more zen person. Navigating the rambunctiousness of daily life, becoming a part of the living organism that the swarms of people there morph into, really raised my level of tolerance for basically everything. People invade your personal space, and you feel dirty all the time, but I feel like no matter where we are in life, no matter what we’re doing, we’re all just people. We’re all walking down the same corridor, some of our corridors just have tiled floors and air conditioning.
But I’m tired. Figuring out where to sleep at night is now more of a chore than an excitement. I find myself craving air-conditioning because I’m sick of being saturated with sweat. I miss having more than 5 t-shirts, and 6 pairs of underwear. I miss blending in with society, not causing heads to turn as I walk down the street. I find myself becoming frustrated with the same 3 minute conversations I’m constantly having with the people I meet.
It wasn’t until travelling in Singapore and Malaysia with Alexa that I realised how far I had slipped. She is constantly amazed by the stark differences she sees between here and home. She hesitates as I calmly dart in and out of traffic to cross four lane roads, and carefully picks through a meal while I destroy it with my hands. She stops to take photos of interesting things like durians piled into the back of a truck to sell on the street, and comments on bad smells we encounter. These are all things I too was once amazed by, but now cease even to notice. It’s become normal to me, and much less exciting than it once was.
As much as I love being outside my comfort zone, and experiencing things that are different, I’ve been so amazed at the cravings I’ve had for Western life. I seek out cafes with good coffee, and wifi. I’ll scour a city in search of muesli and yoghurt for breakfast. Just this morning I looked for what I thought would be the nicer part of a mall to use the bathroom, when only a month ago I was using squat toilets with no paper in Burma. Yesterday I complained to Alexa about the air-conditioning in the monorail not working, when I’ve spent the majority of the last 6 months without it. It’s as if now I am back in cities that have a Western feel to them, I feel entitled to all the things I associate with Western culture and comfort.
I find myself actually wanting to go home in a few days. I’m looking forward to keeping my clothes in a drawer, rather than in a packing cube in my bag. I want to be somewhere comfortable enough that I can leave my soap and toothbrush in the bathroom. I’m looking forward to cooking my own meals, and being able to eat vegetables again. I want to be able to go out in public and be invisible because everyone else is the same as me, and speaks the same language. I want a local coffee shop, and relationships that last more than a few days.
Ultimately travel is something that I love, something that I’ll always crave. As oxymoronic as it sounds, I really do enjoy being outside of my comfort zone. But long term travel isn’t for me. I’ve met plenty of travelers who have been on the road for a year or more, many of whom have no plans to go home. Some of them are starting to get tired, but many others really love living their life on the road. For now, I’m ready to go home.